August 31, 2010

Fall into a Class with the Pinellas County Extension

Attend Pinellas County Extension’s September Classes

Pinellas County Extension offers residents a wide variety of classes to help them make sustainable decisions. Be sure to check out our lunch break online classes, “Solutions in 30.”

Solutions in 30:
September 1, 2010 - Preparing Your Landscape for Storms
September 8, 2010 - Coastal Invasion – Are We Ready?
September 15, 2010 - Fall Vegetable Gardening
September 22, 2010 - The Scoop on Sugar - Curbing Your Sweet Tooth
September 29, 2010 - Solar Power in the Sunshine State

Commercial (Pesticide/FNGLA/ISA) CEUs:
September 16 - Best Managment Practices (Spanish)
September 22 - Roundup License Training - LCLM

Lawn & Garden:
September 8, 2010 - Vegetable Gardening 2:00pm
September 8, 2010 - Vegetable Gardening 6:15pm
September 11, 2010 - Backyard Composting Workshop
September 18, 2010 - Palms- Keeping them Healthy
September 22, 2010 - Wasps, Hornets, & Bees 
September 25, 2010 - Rain Harvesting Workshop

Families & Consumers:
September 15, 2010 - Focus on Finances

Sustainable Living:
September 15, 2010 - Green Jobs
September 25, 2010 - Pinellas Energy Efficiency Project
September 21, 2010 - Clean Marina and Boatyard Workshop
September 21, 2010 - The Five Biggest Myths of Climate Change

You can register for classes online at
Look for and click on the “Online Class Registration” orange button on the right hand side near the top of the page.

August 26, 2010

Make Your Neighbors Disappear!

8/26/10 |
Bob Albanese, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

In this day and age of small lots and big houses at some point in time we all pretty much have the same desire “I wish I had more privacy in my yard”. Whether you like them or not, you really don’t want to see your neighbors waving a pleasant howdy-do to you as you and your sweetie are relaxing in your hot tub with a refreshing drink. Or perhaps you are entertaining friends lounging around the pool, or eating a meal with the family, in any case privacy is a nice thing to have. With some careful planning and a bit of research you can easily make the view of your prying neighbor turn into a pleasant scene of foliage. The first thing you’ll need to ascertain is how tall a screen you will need; for most folks with one story houses a planting that grows 4 to 6 feet tall is frequently adequate. Then factor in the amount of sun/shade and available watering- all of these factors will combine to limit your choices to a plant palette that should serve you well.

Bamboo – there are many suitable choices in the world of Bamboo and other closely related genera. The secret to being successful with these plants is to be sure you choose the right species to do the job you need it to do. When choosing a bamboo be sure to select a clumping bamboo (NEVER A RUNNING BAMBOO), there are hundreds, perhaps thousands to choose from. Mature growing heights vary greatly; I suggest picking a variety that stays under 15 feet tall.

Podocarpus – (Podocarpus macrophylla) If a sheared hedge is needed I strongly recommend this plant. Full to half a day of sun is best and a well drained soil is a must. Recommended spacing for a dense hedge is 3 feet on center (“OC”), once established they are also quite drought tolerant. The needle like foliage combined with its soft bluish green color is very attractive and pruning can be done as few as 3 times a year.

Marlberry (Ardissia escallonioides) – a native shrub that grows in a naturally columnar form makes it ideal for a hedge or screening plant. Full shade to partial shade is ideal for this drought resistant plant. The leaves are a shade of grey-green and the leaf has an unusual satin gloss appearance. Small black fruits are produced in profusion which adds to its curb appeal. It also attracts birds and has a wonderfully fragrant flower.
Sabal Minor

(Sabal minor) is a great native shrub like palm that is one of the most trouble free plants you can plant in central Florida. It will grow in just about any soil, in full sun to full shade and forms a dense hedge. Add its’ incredible drought resistance (when established properly), and the fact that it rarely if ever needs to be fertilized or pruned. They grow to be about 4 to 5 feet tall, thick and full to the ground and they have no serious insect or disease pests.
Dwarf Sugar Date
Dwarf sugar date palm (Arenga engleri) the mature growing height of this clumping palm is described as “9 to 12 feet tall” making it an excellent screening plant. When it is in bloom the fragrance is so sweet it is hard to believe it comes from a palm tree. The foliage is a dark green above and silver below which adds interest to the striking tropical appearance.
Lady Palm

Corn Plant (Dracena fragrans) the common corn plant is an excellent tall narrow screening plant for those of you who live in the warmer areas of the county. They are very shade tolerant and pretty drought tolerant as well. The growing height depends on where you happen to cut it back to and the durable foliage is attractive year round. Blooms on established plants appear at years end and are quite fragrant from sunset till dawn.

Lady palm (Raphis excelsa) makes a very appealing tropical looking privacy hedge that is best in half a day shade to full shade. Being a palm there is little seasonal change. The glossy green leaves dance gracefully in the slightest breeze and are appealing all year long. Drought and cold hardiness are extra bonuses for this superb and under used plant.

August 9, 2010

Christmas in Summer

8/9/10 |
By Karen Saley, Extension Specialist, Pinellas County Extension

With the summer heat hitting the nineties, Christmas is probably the last thing on your mind, but now is the time to start putting into practice all those helpful budgeting tips you read about in November and December.

Lack of planning can lead to overspending during the holidays. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping along with feeling the strain of limited time which can lead to buying gifts at full price and on impulse. With a little advanced planning and writing out a budget you will be able to reduce your stress and save time and money this holiday season.

Before you write out your spending plan there are a few things you may want to consider before getting started.
  • Are there people you can eliminate from your gift list like the mailman, your kid’s teachers, and your hairdresser? It’s very nice to remember everyone during the holidays, but they are probably feeling the financial pinch as much as you and are most likely not expecting a gift. 
  • If your family is one of the many that exchange gifts with everyone you may want to talk to them about a secret Santa or pulling names from a hat. You may want to ask if there is a family gift such as video or electronic games, camping gear, or sporting equipment that the whole family would use.
  • If there is a family member that has their heart set on a more expensive give, take up a collection from the whole family to purchase it instead of buying a lot of little things that may not be appreciated as much.
  • Discuss the idea of family and friends spending time together playing games, watching holiday movies or getting involved in a charity helping others instead of exchanging gifts.
  • Preparing the holiday meal can be very time consuming and expensive. Suggest that this year everyone make a dish, provide beverages, or bring dessert. It’s a good way to get everyone involved in the holiday meal and it will save you time and money. 
Now that you have considered some ways to reduce your holiday expenses, it’s time to write your spending plan and start shopping.
  • Make a list of everyone you are going to buy gifts for and set a dollar amount for each person.
  • Go through your gift wrap, bows, and cards and make a list of what you will need for the holidays. If you want to be really frugal, consider using some of the more colorful pages of the newspaper as gift wrap.
  • Write out your holiday menu and start stocking up on the non-perishable items you will need such as chicken broth, stuffing mix, and canned or frozen vegetables. This will allow you to buy these items as they go on sale.
  • Start gift shopping. Look for those bargains and sales at the book stores, toy stores, department stores, and outlets. You will have two seasonal sales events to make the most of before the end of the year.
  • Sign up to receive email alerts from your favorite stores so you can take advantage of sales and coupons throughout the year.
  • Compare prices on line before making a purchase. Having the time to shop around can save you big bucks. 
With a little planning and a head start on your shopping, you will save time and money and be far less stressed this holiday season. Happy Holidays!

August 4, 2010

A Farewell from Our 4-H Youth Mentors

Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, Pinellas County Extension

As summer draws to a close, so do the job assignments of the 4-H Youth Mentors. Youth Mentors have developed and delivered programs, wrote curriculum, and assisted in a variety of office tasks. The 4-H Youth Mentor position has been supported by the Pinellas County 4-H Foundation for the past two years. During this time, 4-H Youth Mentors have contributed articles to Timely Topics. Melissa Sharp and Andrew Yuan both completed their tenure as Youth Mentors last week. Before they left, they each wrote a final article describing their experiences in 4-H and as Youth Mentors. Melissa will be attending the Florida Institute of Technology and Andrew will be attending Duke University.

A 4-H Farewell
By Andrew Yuan

I came into 4-H in the fall of 2007 through a bit of an unconventional route. My brother Eric was a 4-H Youth Mentor and he had the car. I needed volunteer hours and I didn’t want to take the bus home. So I became a 4-H volunteer in the Pinellas County Extension Office. I helped my brother and Richard (the other mentor) with whatever projects they were working on. I learned to do as I was told, and I became very familiar with the copy machine. Throughout the school year I worked on developing the Technology Team.

I stayed on in the summer, expecting to work more with the 4-H Tech Team. Instead I was thrown onto the 4-H Nutrition Team. We went out daily to local recreation centers (up to four a day!) and through a series of pre and post tests, presentations, skits, and interactive cooking lessons, we showed youth in our community the merits of eating healthy and exercising. As the summer drew to a close and the previous mentors preparing for college, I was finally offered the position of 4-H Youth Mentor.

My brother passed the torch on to me and I gained new responsibilities and a low but steady income. Through this job, which I would easily consider one of the most interesting jobs a teen could have, I have had so many experiences. Within the past two years I have headed the Tech Team and co-founded the Teen Council. I have created websites, developed curriculum, created presentations, slideshows, brochures, postcards, flyers, and labels. I have done clerical work such as entering volunteer hours, using 4-Honline, and records managing. I have even moved furniture, packed boxes, helped cater banquets, and hosted events. Last year I had the opportunity to go to Congress and Melissa and I placed first with our team demonstration. This year I got to go to Legislature and see the inner workings of the Florida government as well as advocate a bill to increase speed limits. Just this summer I have worked with people of all ages, from teaching senior citizens to use computers to working with elementary to middle school youth in a drama class.

Most of all, I’ve noticed that everything in 4-H is founded on the same basic principles: helping people and building life skills. Through my experiences in 4-H I have developed cooking skills, technology skills, public speaking skills, leadership and teamwork skills, and an unparalleled level of flexibility. I am truly thankful for my time here and I will miss it. I was fortunate enough to have a behind-the-scenes look at 4-H as well as participate in 4-H activities. I have seen the layers of support in 4-H all the way from our 4-H agent at the top, to dedicated club leaders, to generous parents, down to enthusiastic youth, so I know 4-H will continue to be strong in Pinellas County.

A Goodbye to 4-H
By Melissa Sharp

My last six years here in 4-H have been full of wonderful and exciting moments. From a frantically beating heart as you stand in front of the judges just about to present your demonstration, to winning a blue ribbon and first place at State 4-H competition, to developing programs to benefit the community, to hanging out on the 22nd floor of the capitol building where you almost swear you can see all of Florida, 4-H really is an amazing program full of opportunities you won’t find any where else, and I was lucky enough to experience a lot of them. In the last two years alone, I have started a Teen Council which will, starting next year, become the County Council. I have gone to 4-H Executive Board and helped plan for our state activities, and won a blue ribbon and first place last year with Andrew on our team demonstration of how to build a club website. I helped Pinellas County push forward the new 4-H science initiative by being a part of our state fair activities and trying to implement it in our outreach and community programs. This year for the first time, I went to 4-H State Legislature where I was a House Representative. I learned a lot about the way our government works and formed some valuable friendships. I was also able to develop curriculum for our Palm Harbor Library Drama Class, and Intergenerational Technology Class. Both went very well and we were asked multiple times to come back again.

I have learned a lot and grown so much because of 4-H. I am more confident in myself and with my peers, and I know that I will succeed in my future. I really feel like 4-H has given me a firm foundation to fall back on and I am grateful for it. Even though I am leaving and won’t be a part of Pinellas County 4-H, I hope that 4-H here continues to grow and influence the young people of our county and state.

I will miss 4-H and everyone I have met through it. I hope to see all of you again.

For information on the Pinellas County 4-H program, visit the web site at or contact Jean Rogalsky at